Karauli, October 03, 2019: Today, over 50 adolescents engaged with government representative, civil society organizations and peers on some priorities areas – health, sexual and reproductive health rights, safety, nutrition, and education. These 50 adolescents, primarily girl champions from the ‘Ab Meri Baari’ campaign, shared the findings from a community scorecard exercise conducted in 22 villages of three districts in Rajasthan – Karauli, Ajmer, and Dholpur.
Based on the community scorecard exercise, the girl champions highlighted some delivery gaps in adolescent-focused government programs and made ten bold recommendations for improved well-being. Some key discussion areas were strengthening of School Management Committee and Village Level Child Protection Committee, lack of information around contraceptives, and overall sexual and reproductive health rights, increasing availability of menstrual hygiene products at Anganwadi Centres, nutritious food for adolescents irrespective of gender, among others.
The ‘Ab Meri Baari’ campaign is a girls-led initiative, in which a national level bus journey is currently going through three states of India – Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Rajasthan. Over 300 girl champions are participating in this bus journey across various villages, districts, and state capitals.
“During the scorecard exercise we learnt the challenges of accessing the local government hospital. Since it is functional only between 9-11 AM with limited doctors and medical provisions adolescents are unable to access various health services provided by the government. We request the government to survey these hospitals and revise the hospital timings. We also hope the government can designate requisite medical officers both male and female in our district,” said sisters and girl champions, Juli Kumari Jatab and Jyoti Kumari Jatab from the Karauli district.
The ‘Ab Meri Baari’ bus journey has arrived in Rajasthan at a crucial time when various government representatives recognize the urgency to solve for the complex challenges faced by the women in the state. The National Family Health Survey-4 data indicates that only 0.2 percent of women age 15 years have started childbearing, but this proportion increases sharply to 9 percent among women who are 18 years old and to 21 percent among women who are 19 years old. Young women who had no schooling are more than four times as likely to have begun childbearing as young women with 12 or more years of schooling. The National Family Health Survey-4 data also shows that more than one-third (35%) of women age 20-24 years got married before the legal minimum age of 18.
Dr. Nilima Agrawal, Senior Program Officer – Rajasthan, Magic Bus, said "We are glad to be part of Ab Meri Baari, a girls-led initiative that focuses on voices and challenges of adolescents. Through the scorecard exercise, the girls have been able to play an active role in their own wellbeing and growth. We hope the girls continue the momentum and can work on their recommendations with government representatives."
“Ab Meri Baari campaign brings change in the life of adolescents living in districts. The future mothers are now aware of the services offered at Anganwadi centres and the quality of service. It is creating change at grassroots and empowering girls,” said, Varun Sharma, Programs Director – Aravali.
The ‘Ab Meri Baari’ bus journey started from Gumla, Jharkhand, on September 21, and has already traversed through Simdega and Ranchi in Jharkhand. It travelled through Sitapur and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, before reaching Rajasthan. In Rajasthan, the bus has travelled through Karauli and will end the journey in Jaipur tomorrow.
The adolescents, civil society organizations and community leaders recognized the ten recommendations made by the girl champions as possible areas of evaluations. These were –
In order for girls to make their own informed decisions about marriage, reproduction and their life as a whole, it is essential that they stay in school, are provided adequate information on sexual and reproductive health, and have access to quality services and provisions. These are crucial levers to delaying child marriage, combating early pregnancy, and enabling an empowered and healthy population of girls and young women.
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